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Why you should buy Nudie Jeans

The Swedish capital's fashion frenzy during Stockholm’s fashion week in August is mainly about showing and selling garments. But it’s also an opportunity for the nation's glitterati to sip sponsored champagne at nightclubs and museums, for celebrities to strut and pose for TV cameras and for sharp-elbowed journalists to jostle for the best seats by the catwalks.

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Lovers of flash and glam got an eyeful at Björn Borg's show of the spring and summer 2006 collection. The event was early in the week at a restaurant/club called Nox, located in the upscale district of Östermalm. Sitting in the outside courtyard decorated to resemble a tropical paradise, female and male models with statuesque bodies strutted down the catwalk in skimpy swimwear and underwear in bright Caribbean colors, some of which featured bird or flower patterns. Attendees got a nice bribe...oops! I mean, we got a present when we left of a bright red beach towel. Thanks, Björn!

The must-see event on the following day was the Golden Button award ceremony, where the best designer of the year is crowned by fashion magazine Damernas Värld (See related story about award winner Carin Rödebjer). Getting to attend this particular bash is so important that some dedicated fashionistas would be prepared to sell their mother-in-laws or husbands in order to get an invitation. The venue for the ceremony and show was the popular weekend Street design market in the Södermalm section of the city. Dogge Doggelito, lead singer in the rap group Latin Kings served as laid-back master-of-ceremonies, while soul singer Titiyo sang some tunes after the show. Titiyo's more famous pop singer brother Eagle-Eye Cherry could be seen briefly cruising the crowd at one end of the room, but he didn't perform.

We next had a look at Polish-born Bea Szenfeld's latest collection, which was presented at an Old Town restaurant on the shore of Lake Mälaren called Pontus by the Sea. The mainly American music seemed to come from the 1920s and 1930s, as did the draped and cheeky style of the fashions. Was it Martin Scorsese’s film about Howard Hughes, “The Aviator,” which had made a big impression on Bea? Our Congratulations to Szenfeld, by the way, for choosing models who are not stamped from the usual blond-hair-long-neck-anorexic mold.

Newcomer designer Diana Örving also created a positive impression. A limited palette of colors--just black, white, off-white and beige was featured in the elegant, strict cuts in her Spring/Summer "Standard" collection. Sometimes less is more in the fashion business. Venues for the some 40 events staged during the Stockholm fashion week included glittery nightclubs, design hotels, a convention center, the city's biggest department store, shopping centers, museums and art galleries. Those of us who tried to see as much as possible were red-eyed and worn-out by the end of the week.

But sometimes it is worthwhile to make an effort. A hike up a steep cobblestone street leading up to Mosebacke Torg on the south side of town, for example, was rewarded with a look at guest exhibitor Tiiti Bjerner's original "Connect" collection in the ÖÖS boutique. Titti’s jewelry/fashion accessory is made of silver combined with textile cords. Clothing is connected with cords to the body, which are fitted with magnets allowing you to connect in many different ways to jewelry... or to other people.

Other accessories which caught our eye were leather bags and purses by Ylva Liljefors, which were featured in the NK department store's mega-show (described later). Ylva's heart-shaped purses, some of which have leather-bound mirrors attached on the outside, combine the feminine with an assertive rock n' roll attitude. An interesting contrast are the minimalist rectangular purses of Lea Kovac, which have a youthful, mod look perfect for clubbing or window-shopping in Manhattan.

Our high expectations for Hope, a label founded by Anne Ringstrand and Stefan Söderberg in autumn 2001, weren't disappointed in the 2006 Spring/Summer collection inspired by Jamaica and ska music. Black, grey and creamy colors were offset by orange or blue, a color scheme popular with other Swedish designers this year as well. Hope also won first prize as “newcomer fashion firm of the year” from the magazine Café for its brand-new menswear collection, which is made from the fine fabrics from England and Italy, but hints in its styling of New York in the 1960s.

Nostalgia is also the order of the day in Maria Westerlind's sophisticated spring 2006 collection, which was heavily inspired by the idealistic 1960s and 1970s. All the female models seemed to be 8 feet tall and sported huge, dark round sunglasses, a la Paris Hilton. This Gothenburg-based brand treated visitors to Dehours Champagne-Grande Reserva at a very trendy Östermalm club called Köket (the kitchen).

Although Stockholm still casts a timid shadow on the international fashion landscape, we saw signs this year of a breadth and commitment which promises good things for the future. Several strong Gothenburg labels participated for the first time in 2005, as did Fornarina of Italy and a large group of South African designers. To see some other fresh ideas, one needed to check out the Rookies show, a sort of greenhouse for up-and-coming talent.

One designer who created a splash there was newcomer Rita Saardi, whose family has roots in Lebanon Her extravagant pastel outfits bubbling with feminine ruffles and ribbons prompted one journalist colleague to scribble in his notebook: "Madonna meets Madicken." (Madicken is a mischievous character in an Astrid Lindgren story). Just as flamboyant, but in a different direction, were the bright, tropical-inspired "Boca" outfits designed by 28-year-old Anneli Åslev, who spent part of her youth in Florida.

Sweden's fashion week is a relatively modest affair in many respects. Sure, you need to have a connection to the industry (or be the friend of someone in the fashion industry) to be invited to most of the shows. And yes, some fashionistas are cold-as-ice snobs. But virtually all guests wait patiently in line to get into the shows-- "special" VIPs don't generally get whisked inside early. Even a major fashion queen like Margaretha van den Bosch, who heads the design department of the international fashion empire H&M, can be seen waiting patiently with good humor in line with all the rest of us.

However, Swedish even-handedness and modesty can have its drawbacks.
"Because of their traditions of egalitarianism, the Swedish designers don't seem to be so good at promoting themselves. Sometimes you have to blow your own horn in order to be noticed," says Glen Baxter, on-air reporter for the Toronto-based Fashion Television Channel. "At some of the Swedish shows, Fashion TV had the only television camera on hand," he observed with surprise.
Baxter singled out this year's shows by Hope, Velour and NK Department store as especially impressive.
"Velour had a very cool location, was well-lighted and well-organized," the Fashion TV commentator observed. Gothenburg-based Velour showed its edgy collection one evening in the Brunkeberg pedestrian tunnel.

The most spectacular of all the Stockholm shows was the one staged by NK department store. This world-class event featured some 80 models that came down twisting stairways on either side of a movie-theatre size screen wearing a total of 100 outfits. The classy nature of the event was evident even before the show started. Young female employees swished by offering fancy NK liqueur-flavored chocolates on silver trays to guests waiting in line to enter---a little gesture that created a positive first impression. A sensuous short film (viewable on-line at www.nk.se/flash-show.asp) set the mood for the show to follow.
NK's preppy-nerdy look for guys-- with suspenders and bow-ties— can not have appealed to many observers. But the women's outfits inspired by Marilyn Monroe, Frida Kahlo and Marlene Dietrich provided a larger-than-life Hollywood dream-glamour with a femme fatal edge that seemed just right for one of Scandinavia's biggest and ritziest shopping emporiums.
If NK hosted the grandest event, Nudie Jeans put on the best party. The venue was Kägelbanen, a popular site for rock concerts and avant garde performances. Unfortunately, the short catwalk was located too far from the seating, so it was hard to closely examine Nudie’s fall collection of jeans and cotton outfits. But what the heck: we received coupons upon entering which entitled us each to four (!) free beers or soft drinks from the bar, as well as a live rock concert which followed the fashion show. After having our eardrums blasted into outer space by Gothenburg-band Silverbullit's potent brew of punk, psychedelic and classic rock, many of us were feeling so mellow and generous that we were ready to recommend Nudie Jeans to all our friends, relatives and acquaintances anyway, despite the fact that we didn’t get a good look at the brand's new female jeans brand, called Ladybirds.

Text: David Bartal

For NK, the team behind the show:
Production: Joakim Pettersson
Styling: Marina Kereklidou
Direction: Dan Arne

Nudie Jeans can these days be found at:
Atrium on 644 Broadway, New York, NY, at Barneys Coop on 236 W 18th. St and Barneys at 660 Madison Avenue also in New York. On the left coast they are presently available at August, 5410 College Avenue, Oakland, CA
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